How to choose the best type of ice machine for your business

Ice. We all grew up with plastic trays in our freezers. As an adult, if you’re not involved in the food business, then you may be none the wiser as to what other options are out there. But as a business owner in the commercial food sector?

Plastic trays with two neat rows of ice cubes just won’t cut it if you’re serving a restaurant full of customers. Not only because your business needs to cater to more than just a single family home, but because cubes aren’t always in style.

Now, you may be wondering: does my business need an ice maker? Are you a convenience store? A grocery store? Even a healthcare facility? Not only are drinks more enjoyable at the temperature that only ice can provide, but ice keeps food cold — which equals fresh, and safe.

But how do you choose an ice maker? With a bit of research, it can be easy to find the best way to keep adding the chill to your business.

Factors to Consider

How much traction your business sees can largely determine what kind of ice maker would work best for you. The types of ice made, as well as cost and size, among other factors, can also influence the decision to go with one ice maker over another. We’ll explore what options you have when considering the purchase of an ice maker.

1. Cost of a Ice Machine

Oftentimes, cost is the single most fluctuating factor of choosing an ice maker, as the cost depends on what you decide to place importance on when it comes to the variations listed below.

You should choose within your budget, of course, but choose wisely — an ice maker is an investment and therefore should match the cost that you expect it to be. They can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to 2 and 3 thousand dollars.

2. Speed of Ice Production

In any business, time is valuable. You don’t want the flow of your business to suffer because you’ve run out of ice, or you’re waiting for the machine to produce during a rush period. However, needing a faster machine isn’t always necessary if you’re buying a machine with a large storage capacity, so it’s important to consider storage and the rate with which you use ice.

3. Types of Ice

Remember the visualization of those ice cube trays? You read correctly: cubes. But will cubes work for everything? It is the golden standard, but cubes won’t do for cocktails. (Can you imagine trying to smash cubes for every single frozen margarita?) Flakes of ice do best for those. There are also nuggets, half-cubes, and the larger crescent-shape, as well as some high-end options. Did you know that there’s such a thing as high-end ice?

Depending on what you’re looking to provide the best experience your customers, it would do well to know what type of ice works best for what your end product is.

4. Choosing a Condenser

You have three choices for a condenser, which is what is doing all of the hard work in your ice maker. Air-cooled machines are energy-efficient and affordable, but won’t work well in a warm setting. Water-cooled machines are workhorses in warm environments, but use a lot of water, making them more costly in the end. Lastly, a remote condensers sit outside of the business, which is great for space, but are the most expensive option.

Two Types of Ice Makers

Now that we’ve laid out all of the most important specifications to remember when considering an ice maker, let’s consider the two types of ice makers and round up what each one can provide:

Self-contained ice machines

A machine that has a self-contained design takes up far less space than one that has a separate storage container. However, if you anticipate needing a large quantity of ice, built-in storage machines have less capacity than a machine that requires you to have a separate storage bin.

Keep in mind that if you buy a machine with self-storage that’s too small, you’ll have to replace the entire machine.

Modular ice machine

These machines only make the ice — they don’t have a compartment for storage, therefore making the user buy a separate storage bin. However, modular machines are the best option for businesses that need to make a significant amount of ice. This option takes up the most amount of space.

Easy, right? Luckily, there are only two main categories of machines to choose from. The rest is all about specs. Narrowing down which ice maker is best for you largely depends on picking and choosing from the specs we’ve outlined before looking at the two categories of machines. That way, you’ll know exactly what to look for.

So… Are You Ready to Buy?

After considering all of the different factors in play, we hope you feel more comfortable with deciding on an ice maker that’s best for you. In the end, every business is vastly different and may have different ice maker needs. The most important steps you can take are to analyze how much ice your business uses, your budgetary limitations, and space limitations… then go from there.